When a pitcher hits a batter, he oftentimes will claim that the ball slipped out of his hand.
But sometimes the beaning is so obvious that nobody could believe it was anything but intentional. Such an incident occurred last Wednesday night between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. stepped to the plate to lead off the game having homered in his previous five games.
With the first pitch of the game, Marlins starter Jose Urena drilled Acuna in the ribs with a 97-mph fastball. As Acuna tried to walk it off, the benches slowly cleared with the Braves players getting increasingly upset with Urena, who was ejected. Braves manager Brian Snitker voiced his displeasure the loudest. He was also ejected.
“I think it's pretty evident what I thought,” Snitker said after the game to reporters. “That's a shame. (Acuna) is just playing the game, doing what he loves to do. A damn shame.”
For his part, Urena contended that he was just trying to pitch inside.
“I made the bad pitch,” he said. “I missed my spot inside on the corner the way I wanted to start with him. I tried to get inside to move him.”
But few baseball observers believed that. Urena’s actions weren’t anything new. Throughout the history of baseball, there have been instances of pitchers trying to slow down a hot batter via the bean ball. In Acuna’s home run streak, three of them had been hit against the Marlins.
While baseball’s unwritten rules continue to stir controversy between teams, intentionally hitting a batter in this way has diminished. Long-time MLB veteran and now New York Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, who came from an older generation of baseball, was one of few people in baseball to support Urena.
“He's killing the ball the last three games, he's hit three home runs,” Hernandez said during the Mets broadcast Wednesday night. “You gotta hit him.”
Hernandez’s comments drew sharp rebukes. But setting aside this incident, pitchers still throw at batters intentionally for a variety of reasons. It’s a manner of the game policing itself, defenders would say. Hockey has a variation of this violent tradition with fighting.
Pitchers supposedly know how to throw at a batter intentionally without causing injury.
But even if nobody gets hurt, is this really a good way for scores to be settled on a baseball field?
What’s your take?
Take 1: Beaning is a part of baseball
Baseball is unlike other sports. While undoubtedly a team sport, its gameplay is ultimately a series of one-on-one matchups. The pitcher has all the power to protect his team or send a message. Throwing at batters is part of that. It should come as no surprise to hitters that it is something they’re going to have to deal with. It costs the pitcher something to do this too, he puts a runner on base. You never want to see anyone get hurt, but that’s just a part of baseball. Charge it to the game.
Take 2: Get it out of the game
There is no reason to ever hit a batter. Pitching inside is one thing; a pitcher has to protect the plate. But to settle off-field matters, or worse punish a player just for playing well, by trying to injure him is totally against good sportsmanship and fair play. If the pitcher doesn’t like the batter hitting home runs, then strike him out. That’s how you settle that score. Beaning sets a terrible example for young players about how the game is supposed to be played.
So, are bean balls a crucial part of the game? Or is it time to end the practice once and for all? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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